“Kojorokitsune Tebiki-no-Adauchi” (1822)
by Katsukawa Shunko I (artist, 1743-1812)
and Gekkotei Shoju (author)
18 x 12.5 cm, 30 pp in each of 2 volumes, woodprint on paper
There are a few artists with this name, but the signature lines up most with Shunko I. I was drawn to this single illustration (above) because it was so lively and creepy and clearly symbolic of something in the pose.
The story has a giant rat in it, and giant rat’s play a role in old Japanese myths, such as the Iron Rat.
In Japanese folklore, if you make a promise you had better keep it—even if you are the Emperor of Japan. Otherwise, the person you betrayed might hold it against you and transform into a giant rat with iron claws and teeth and kill your first-born son. That is the story of the Emperor Shirakawa, his son Prince Taruhito, and the Abbot of Miidera temple Raigo—better known as Tesso, the Iron Rat; or more simply as Raigo the Rat.